Written by Mike Nelson, Vice President of IoT Security, DigiCert
Fifteen years ago, we could hardly have imagined our growing reliance on the smart devices of today. The first iPhone was launched in 2007; although it wasn’t the first smartphone, it transcended all others, launching the smart device revolution. Today, from thermostats to speakers to refrigerators that can all be controlled with voice commands or from a phone, many homes today are now “smart homes,” relying on connected devices that allow for convenient access, even when we are not physically inside our residence.
Looking forward, Matter, the new smart home connectivity standard, promises to put an end to the fragmentation that limits secure and reliable smart device interconnectivity. A lack of unifying standards among smart home technology has made using devices together complicated and difficult. With Matter, regardless of brand, you will be able to control all of your smart home devices with the controller of choice, whether that’s your smart phone, Alexa, Google home, or any of the other options available. Matter’s initial benefits for the use of smart home devices promise to be just the beginning.
We collectively refer to these connected devices as the Internet of Things (IoT). While today we’re still in awe of the capabilities of our smart gadgets, in the future, they will be as commonplace as the keys we carry in our pockets. As they become natively connected and compatible via Matter, we will no longer be so enamored by how these devices work and what they do—just like I don’t even think twice when I spontaneously take a professional-grade photo with my smartphone.
Matter promises to do away with device connectivity fragmentation
Matter may be just the key we need to unlock the full potential of device-to-device communication between smart devices. Starting with smart homes, it could expand to unify all connected devices. When Matter becomes widely available, it may enable compatibility within areas beyond smart homes, such as smart buildings and cities, healthcare and virtually any industry with connected devices. It will also enable better security as it will rely on public key infrastructure (PKI), a long-time standard for achieving digital trust. Matter-certified devices will encrypt all data running through them, both in transit and at rest. Data will be encrypted by default.
Matter is a collaborative effort of major device manufacturers organized by the Connectivity Standards Alliance (CSA). It is a global standard for enabling secure, seamless digital device-to-device connections, currently being adopted by the biggest smart home brands, such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung. It offers a promise of reliable, secure connectivity, creating connections between devices, simplifying development of devices for manufacturers.
Smart home standards are just the beginning
We all enjoy the health and financial protections from industry standards for products we use every day: from toy safety standards and labeling that protect our children to food safety requirements and labeling, as well as standards for financial exchange that underpin our global economy.
Matter is the next household standard and has the potential to become as well-known as Bluetooth. Matter-connected devices will enable consumers to simplify their multi-device smart connected homes and manage everything with their favorite voice control.
Connected smart buildings and cities
Matter could empower smart buildings and cities with seamless and simplified connectivity through smart-enabled systems that are natively connected. All the water consumption from faucets and energy from lighting, heating, air-conditioning and other appliances and electronics could be seamlessly integrated to provide both consumers and utilities with a more complete view of the information collected from the devices. Smart buildings and cities could provide cohesive and holistic visibility to improve efficiencies and optimize utilization by better controlling the systems that deliver water, electricity and gas, based on data shared among the interconnected systems.
We already have smart energy systems that allow homeowners to monitor their water and electricity usage from a single in-home display. If these systems could be scaled to support multi-tenant buildings and even entire cities, the Matter standard would be vital to secure compatibility and interoperability for the management of diverse and distributed systems with centralized monitoring and control.
Improving health outcomes with interconnected wearable devices and medical systems
Modern medical facilities rely on numerous smart devices. Yet, connected medical devices from different manufacturers are unable to communicate with each other. Consider the sensitive nature of their data and the need to keep patient information private, while at the same time these devices must be continuously monitoring said data.
There are myriad devices from different manufacturers within a single healthcare system. These devices need to work together to securely share this sensitive data. Of crucial importance, therefore, are the trustworthiness and time-critical and reliable nature of healthcare devices. Whether monitoring a patient’s heart rate, glucose levels, automated IV pumps, or smart bed controls, Matter could support the healthcare industry with greater security and control and simplified device onboarding.
Connecting devices beyond our planet
NASA is already using a wireless protocol similar to Matter on Mars. The Zigbee protocol, also initiated by the CSA, transfers data between the NASA rover and the semi-autonomous flying drone. In addition to enabling a drone on Mars, Zigbee is ideal for small smart home devices due to its low energy consumption. Matter will also run-on low energy, so it’s not out of this world to imagine NASA using it on future space missions.
Becoming Matter compliant now
The first Matter-enabled devices will be available to consumers in the near future. Product Attestation Intermediate (PAI) and Device Attestation Certificates (DACs) issued by a Product Attestation Authority (PAA) are required for Matter compliance. The large smart device manufacturers are gaining the early adopter advantage by becoming Matter enabled, and other device manufacturers will surely follow their lead. Manufacturers who can enable Matter in their devices will win customers, who will be able to trust that their devices can connect with their favorite device brands seamlessly and securely.